GAINESVILLE — Lanier sprinted out of the gates and then came up with a huge fourth quarter play to help send the playoff seeding race in Region 8-AAAAAA into controlled chaos on Friday.
The Longhorns took out Gainesville 27-14 at City Park in a game that -- combined with Dacula's defeat of Winder-Barrow -- ensured a three-way tie for second place in 8-AAAAAA (Dacula claimed the region crown).
Lanier, Gainesville and Winder must now wait for Saturday's MaxPreps rankings update to separate the combatants. Prior to Friday's games, Winder led the rankings, with Lanier just behind and Gainesville trailing -- though that could now change. (Should the rankings hold, Gainesville would drop to fourth with Winder taking second by virtue of its defeat of Lanier earlier this season.)
The Longhorns (6-4, 3-2 Region 8-AAAAAA) ensured some Saturday morning speculation by coming up with key plays on Friday night.
Lanier made the most of a Red Elephants (4-6, 3-2) miscue on the opening kickoff, pouncing on a Gainesville fumble that Larry Harper turned into a 4-yard touchdown run just two plays later. The Longhorns made it 14-0 on their second possession when Zach Calzada hit Mekal Fuller for a 10-yard touchdown pass with 3:43 left in the first quarter.
The Red Elephants recovered from their early stumbles, however, and pulled within 14-7 in the second quarter when Tre Luttrell plowed into the end zone. The Gainesville quarterback also scored from 18 yards in the third quarter, as the Red Elephants continued their resurgence to knot the score at 14-14.
Gainesville missed on a 52-yard field goal on its next possession -- but that proved the Red Elephants' high-water mark, as Lanier responded with a 79-yard touchdown pass from Calzada to a wide-open Zach Charles. Lanier's defense would not let the lead slip, intercepting a Gainesville pass, forcing a punt and then a turnover on downs on its next three stands, the turnover on downs setting up a short touchdown run as time expired with the Longhorns taking possession inside the Red Elephants' 10-yard line.
Lanier managed 264 total yards, including 134 passing for Calzada, who completed 8 of 17 attempts. Harper finished with 17 carries for 78 yards.
Gainesville put up 245 yards, including 139 passing for Luttrell, who completed 14 of 24 attempts, including six to Jared Rosser for 58 yards. Keith Harris paced Gainesville's ground game with eight carries for 70 yards.
Both teams could yet end up on the road in the playoffs -- though at least one could be at home, depending on MaxPreps.